Daycation to Oakland Zoo’s California Trail

daycation oakland zoo california trail

Gain a birds-eye view of the Oakland Zoo with the newly-opened California Trail. Photo: Eric Dugan Photography / Oakland Zoo

OAKLAND – If you’re looking to soar to new heights, head to the Oakland Zoo to visit the newly-opened California Trail. This 56-acre expansion is focused on “the delicate balance between plants, animals and humans–and the impact of change on all three.”  To access this new space, you will glide in a sky gondola from the main lower zoo up to the California Trail.    

The gondolas, which are electric and enclosed with windows on all sides, seat up to 8 people and are both wheelchair and stroller accessible. Your four-minute ride will take you above the rolling hills of Knowland Park and over the Zoo’s Ecological Recovery Zone. This protected site is dedicated to preserving native plant habitats for local wildlife, like the endangered Alameda Striped Racer snake. Don’t expect to see any slithering creatures from the sky, however, as you’ll be 650 feet above sea level. Instead, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of much larger animals, such as camels and American Bison.

American Bison can be seen from the Gondola ride. Photo:

You’ll exit the gondola at the base of the three-story Kaiser Permanente Visitor Center. From there, you have several options. You can follow the California Trail Boardwalk to see and learn about animals that either currently inhabit or once lived here, but are no longer wild in the Golden State. This includes black bears, grizzly bears, California condors, eagles and a gray wolf habitat. Another perk of the California Trail: refillable water bottle stations to ensure that you stay hydrated and which are part of the Zoo’s conservation efforts to reduce plastic water bottles. To find other practical ways you can conserve our natural resources, visit the California Conservation Habitarium, which is located on the California Trail.

If a bite to eat is what you’re after, visit the Landing Café inside the Visitor Center. The Café has indoor and outdoor seating. I’m partial to the patio tables, where on a clear day you can see for miles and miles. You don’t need to be dining, however, to enjoy the view. The San Francisco Bay Overlook provides a panoramic view of the Bay and six Bay Area counties.

View of the Bay Area from the Landing Café. Photo: Andy L. / Yelp

Children will enjoy the California Wilds Playground which includes a zip line and is composed of five different play zones, each one inspired by the different ecological zones that the California Trail animals call home.

With so much to see and do, you might be tempted to skip the lower portion of the zoo, but don’t. Both the main zoo and the gondola ride & California Trail exhibit are included in the price of your ticket, so you can see your favorite animals and discover new wildlife.

If you go: The Oakland Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland. Ticket prices start at $20. Children 2 years and under are free. For more information, call 510-632-9525 or visit

Your Town Daycations is a series featured in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the September 2018 editions.